A Response to Daniel Miessler

What do I think of what Daniel Miessler said about the Bible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone recently shared with me a post by Daniel Miessler to show the Bible is fiction. At the start, this is something even difficult to say. Everything in the Bible is fiction? Every single thing? Nothing in it happened at all? Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Babylon? No one in the New Testament who is a major character ever even existed? (I have taken enough looking at mythicism to show it’s a joke theory I think.)

Still, let’s see what Miessler has to say. He wants to emphasize Genesis and Jesus. Now my main specialty area will be Jesus, but I have a few things to say about Genesis.

First, let’s look at comparisons about the flood. To begin with, much of this is also found in Dawkins’s Outgrowing God which I am writing an ebook response to at the time. One of my main sources I am using for the Genesis part is this one.

My source, in this case, is a researcher at Cambridge who specializes in Assyriology. Now let’s consider that Miessler is an expert in cyber security by contrast. All things being equal, before we even investigate the claims, which person is more likely to know the most about an Ancient Near Eastern culture and their writings? Ding ding ding! That’s right! It’s the one who actually studies those cultures.

I leave it to you to read the article that I shared to see some of the major problems, but let’s look at what Miessler says.

“Keep in mind the level of detail in these similarities. It’s not a matter of just a flood, but specific details: three birds sent out, resisting the call to build the ark, and a single man being chosen by God to build the ark. Then consider that the first story (Gilgamesh) came from Babylon — hundreds of years before the Bible was even written.”

To begin with, I don’t recall Noah ever resisting the call to build the ark. Second, if an event was historical to some extent, we can expect some similarities. The differences will be in the secondary details, but there will still be similarities.

Nothing is said about the differences. Nothing is said about a polytheistic culture living in the great symbiosis system versus a monotheistic covenant theology system. Nothing is said about the size and shape of the boats. Nothing is said about the purpose of the flood. Nothing is said about what happens to the hero of the story afterward. For example, in Noah’s study, he builds a vineyard, gets drunk, and is sexually shamed in some way by his grandson. (The language of the Bible is very euphemistic at this point.) Hardly a way to glorify your hero in the end!

The writing of Miessler is dated to September 18th, 2019. Why did he not avail himself of a study such as The Lost World of the Flood by Longman and Walton? I suspect that it is because this writer, like many non-Christians I meet, and sadly many Christians, has a fear of contrary thought. His source material is horrendous anyway.

Second, he says that this came from Babylon centuries before the Bible was written. Neither of these points is substantiated. Nothing is said about when the Bible was written. It looks like he’s going with a JEPD date of Genesis, but he does not argue for it. He merely assumes it. It would have been nice to see some effort here.

He also has in the footnotes that all of this is to show that God is fiction and was made up because we are scared of death and wanted to control people. If so, the plan failed miserably. In the Old Testament, you would think that if death was something that people were scared of, you’d see more explicit statements about resurrection and warnings about Hell and encouragements about the joy of Heaven. If it was to control people, it looks like that failed miserably too because in the Old Testament, the Jews are very rarely under control.

Such thinking anyway is quite fallacious. Imagine if I said, “Atheism is a system that exists because people don’t want to be under authority and they don’t want to be bound by God and live a life with the sexual freedom they want.” Could that be a motivation for some? Sure. Could some people be Christians because they fear death? Sure. Nothing in this really addresses the arguments for the beliefs.

By the way, Miessler, if you want to show that God is not real, it would serve you well to deal with some arguments for God. You do not do so in this piece. Now it could be you have elsewhere, but if you are making an argument that God is fiction, perhaps you could link to an earlier writing on your part.

It’s also worth noting that his information on Noah comes from ReligiousTolerance.org. Yep! This is first-rate research we are seeing right here!

Now let’s move to the fun part. Jesus. HIs source is Bandoli and even then, he doesn’t get the link right on his post. Fortunately, I was easily able to track it down. You can see it here.

If you go through the list, you will see that none of them have any documentation. The one exception is a book about Alexander the Great and not even a page number is cited. Everything else, the writer expects us to just take by faith, which apparently Miessler did and then the person who shared it with me. I often say that when an atheist looks at an argument, he doesn’t look to see if the argument is true. He just asks a question or two.

Does the argument argue that Christianity is false?

Does the argument make Christianity look bad?

If so, it is absolutely true and no research is needed. Now if anything is brought up contrary to atheism, that requires evidence. If anything is brought up contrary to Christianity, that requires no evidence. I, meanwhile, prefer to demolish a bad argument period regardless of if it’s against atheism or Christianity, and yes, there are plenty of bad arguments against atheism and plenty of bad arguments for Christianity.

Scholarship for the most part, even skeptical scholarship, doesn’t really take the copycat idea seriously anymore. The grand central hub of resources on the pagan copycat claim can be found here. Still, let’s go through the list and mention a few interesting ones.

Osiris is said to be the only true God, which is interesting to say since the Egyptian religions are very polytheistic. Osiris also didn’t rise from the dead. He was reconstructed by his wife, except for one particular body part she couldn’t find which she made a substitute of, and then ruled from thereon in the underworld and not the land of the living.

Horus doesn’t fare much better. Egyptologists have looked at the many claims given for him. As is said at one point in the article:

While all recognize that the image of the baby Horus and Isis has influenced the Christian iconography of Madonna and Child, this is where the similarity stops. There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born.

Of course, evidence is a small thing for internet atheists to consider. This argues against Christianity so it had to be true. Most atheists will share it without bothering to check it out.

Mithra is also amusing. We have NO writings by worshipers of Mithra. There are also three different versions. Which one is had in mind? Since we don’t have writings from his followers, our main sources are artwork and the writings of the church fathers about Mithra. So much of this is nonsense. They did not practice baptism (Not babtism) but rather the followers were put under a bull and had its blood poured out on them. That is obviously a one to one parallel with going into the water and being submerged into it.

For claims about Buddha and Krishna, Mike Licona interviewed two scholars in those fields who found these kinds of arguments far less than convincing. You can read that here. Again, there’s a reason the copycat thesis is not taken seriously.

Let’s look now at Bible contradictions. The first is about the flood. This is not so much a contradiction as a supposed falsehood. Miessler is under the impression the text requires a global flood. It doesn’t. The flood I contend was local, though the scope would be considered the known world of the time. Hence, questions about foreign animals and the like will not be something that concerns me. That means there’s nothing left.

He then says in Luke, the angel spoke to Mary. In Matthew, to Joseph. Which is it? These don’t contradict. The angel tells Mary she will give birth while being a virgin (Which I do affirm) and then tells Joseph later on when he hears the news that Mary is telling the truth and don’t be afraid to marry her. That doesn’t mean the story is true, though I affirm that it is, but this is hardly a contradiction.

He says the word for virgin is Almah and means young woman of marriageable age. In Isaiah, definitely. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is parthenos and definitely means virgin. He also says Jesus had other brothers and sisters. Most Protestants would agree and say only Jesus had a virgin birth (Which I do affirm) and the rest came the natural way. Even a Catholic or Orthodox who holds to perpetual virginity should at least have no problem seeing that this wouldn’t violate the virgin birth as held by Protestants.

As for the census, the wording in Luke 2 is quite difficult. Ben Witherington in my interview with him indicated it could mean a smaller census taking place before the great census later on. Further, if Luke was really fabricating something, I see no reason to think he would fabricate something everyone would know was false.

He says the Bible says to honor your father and mother, but Jesus says to hate your parents and call no one father. It’s incredible that people still have such a hard time reading basic instructions. No one ever took Jesus to mean that we must actually hate our parents until internet atheists came along. Jesus’s statement there is one of comparison. Your love of the Kingdom must come before even familial obligations.

He then says God says killing is wrong, yet advocates genocide. To begin with, the Hebrew word is Ratsach. There are a number of other words that refer to killing. This kind of killing is being forbidden. Killing, in general, is not. As for genocide, we are sure that Miessler will never read a work such as Did God Really Command Genocide? After all, contrary thought is way too frightening. You can listen to my interview with Matthew Flannagan, one of the authors, here.

He also goes after slavery. Nothing is said about how Israelites in the wilderness were supposed to make their living. Slavery is never defined. He also says we all know it’s wrong, which is really a recent innovation. I would like to know how on atheism Miessler would know that slavery is wrong. Again, at any rate, he could have talked to a scholar about the topic like I did here.

He also says about the genealogy of Jesus that if Joseph isn’t the father, why give a genealogy to someone who isn’t related to you? Joseph’s is given for legal reasons. Joseph would be seen as the legal parent of Jesus. Keep in mind, an adopted son became Caesar after all.

He then asks about the Passover. Wouldn’t an all-knowing God know who was faithful and who wasn’t? This is more a judicial review of sorts. Those who were faithful were to make a sacrifice to show to everyone else they were and to make a public demonstration of their trust in the promises of YHWH.

Finally, what about Abraham being asked to kill his son? To begin with, Isaac was the child of promise and had a miraculous birth in the account. Isaac was also promised to be the one through whom Abraham’s blessings would come. When Isaac and Abraham go to offer the sacrifice, they are accompanied by others. Abraham stops them at one point and tells them they must wait. Abraham and Isaac will go alone and they will both return.

Isaac is also not a wimp here. He’s carrying the wood himself for the sacrifice. Keep in mind Abraham was well over 100. Does anyone really think Isaac couldn’t have outrun him or fought him off or something like that? Would Isaac be willing to be sacrificed? Apparently. Death wasn’t the big deal to people back then that it is today. People faced death everyday on a regular basis.

Abraham instead was trusting God’s promise. Either YHWH would stop him somehow, or YHWH would raise him from the dead. As it is, Abraham was stopped.

He asks how is Jesus’s sacrifice the ultimate one if He didn’t stay dead. That’s not a requirement though. The sacrifice is offered to God. God can do with it what He wants. The giving back of life to Jesus is saying that God approves of the offering and of the life His Son lived. Justice has been paid.

He then asks if Jesus removed our sins, why do we have to avoid sin and accept Him to avoid eternity in Hell? This is really such a simple question I can’t believe anyone is really asking it like a stumper. We avoid sin because sin dishonors God and because it goes against our own purpose in this world. We are to live holy lives. Why do we have to accept Jesus? Because in accepting Jesus, we agree with God’s verdict and seek His forgiveness. It is never forced.

He also says why does the Bible say so much about treating slaves, how to kill enemies, and how to avoid angering God, but never anything such as not to harm a child. Probably because the ways of YHWH on many things were counter-cultural and different. Not harming children is largely basic, though Israelites were forbidden from sacrificing their children unlike their pagan neighbors.

The next two assume a worldwide flood. I have no need to reply since I don’t hold to that.

The next is about the problem of evil and the suffering of children. To begin with, the logical problem of evil is no longer used as a disproof of God. The probabilistic problem of evil and evidential problem is. Evil cannot disprove God, but it can make His existence seem unlikely.

There is no easy solution to this and I recommend reading works, especially Clay Jones’s book Why Does God Allow Evil? which I interviewed him on here. What I want to know is why Miessler considers this an evil. If we are all just a cosmic accident, we have no meaning and purpose, so what difference does it make? A child dies or an old man dies. Their lives are meaningless and they will both go to nothing.

Finally, he says Wikipedia can be updated. Why not Scripture? For one thing, Wikipedia regularly gets things wrong, such as the Shane Fitzgerald incident. Second, imagine the chaos if all around the world people had different books all said to be the Bible and they were different for that culture or the manuscripts were radically differing. The system God has works now.

Miessler then tells us we have two options.

#1.

God created all these stories and characters thousands of years before the Bible in order to trick people, and then created new stories and characters that were almost exactly the same. But the version that went into the Bible—even with all the contradictions and immoral teachings—is the actual word of God. …OR

#2

The Bible was created during a time where stories were orally passed down over thousands of years. Stories constantly morphed and changed over time, and the Bible is a collection of these. This is why it has the nearly identical flood story from Gilgamesh, and why Jesus has the same characteristics as Dionysus, Osiris, Horus, Mithra, and Krishna. The contradictions and immorality in the stories are not evidence that God is flawed or evil, but rather that humans invented him, just like the thousands of other gods that we used to but no longer believe in.

Let’s go with #3.

Miessler is someone who wouldn’t recognize good scholarship if it came up to him and smacked him in the face. He is highly ignorant of the evidence for Christianity and believes anything found in atheist works without reservation. The real case is the Bible needs to be studied contextually and when this is done rightly, one can see it’s true and Jesus rose from the dead.

He then concludes:

If you hadn’t been taught Christianity since you were a young child, which of these two explanations would make the most sense to you?

Well, none of the earliest Christians were taught Christianity since they were young children and yet the faith thrived at that point. What makes the most sense to me is Miessler doesn’t ever study what he seriously disagrees with and believes anything that argues against it. Christians who study these issues don’t even blink anymore. Those who believe Miessler are just as much people of faith as he is.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheism: A Critical Analysis

What do I think of Stephen Parrish’s book published by Wipf and Stock? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Stephen Parrish has written a book that is highly philosophical, and yet at the same time, highly readable. The book is a look at the idea of atheism. Does it really stand up to scrutiny? He looks at it from a scholarly level and from a popular level both.

At the start, one gets treated to definitions. What is meant by atheism and theism? What is meant by religion and science? What is meant by the term supernatural? These are all terms that we use freely, but very rarely do we stop and ask what they mean. I am one who never uses the term supernatural thinking it is way too vague and when I get a claim such as someone talking about the evils of religion, I ask for a definition of religion.

He also deals with popular objections. Is atheism merely a lack of belief in God? What about the idea that someone is an atheist to many other gods out there. The one who identifies as an atheist just goes one god further. Sure, these are all piddly weak on the surface and the old atheists would have been embarrassed to see such arguments, but they are out there today.

Parrish’s work that presents problem areas mainly for atheism come in three categories and these can be broken down further. The first is the origin of the universe. This is an interesting topic in itself, but I am pleased to see that he goes even further and asks not only how the universe came into being but rather how does it continue in being. It’s not enough to ask why it came in the first place. Knowing how it remains here is something great to ask too.

The second area is the problem of the mind. How is it that the mind works? What is the explanation of consciousness? There are a plethora of different theories out there. Parrish works to explain the flaws in the other theories and gives a case for why theism has better explanatory power.

The last is ethics and morality. There is a subsection here on beauty as well. How is it that we live in a universe where there seem to be principles of good and evil that most people consider objective, binding, and authoritative? Could they all really be subjective?

An atheist reading this could think, “Ah. Those are issues, but surely he should discuss the issue that’s problematic for theists. The problem of evil.” He should and he does. He looks at this and a number of defenses and theodicies and then turns and says that on his argument, the problem of evil is more of a problem for the atheist than the theist.

Some of you might be wondering why I don’t spell these kinds of thoughts out even more. There’s a simple reason for that. You need to go and get the book yourself. I can’t help but think of the quote of C.S. Lewis.

“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

A man wishing to remain in his atheism should also realize that this book is a trap as well. While I am far more Thomist than Parrish is in my philosophy, there is far more that I agree with than I would disagree with. Anyone who is a critical atheist needs to get this for a critical analysis of that view.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Pulling Back The Green Curtain Part 1

What do I think of Jim Hall’s new self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While the book says it’s by Stephany Chase, an interview has been done and Jim Hall is apparently the real author. We’ve dealt with Jim Hall a few times on this blog. We are quite confident he won’t engage back since any time I have challenged him on any point, he has refused to address it.

At any rate, this book is supposed to be 666 things your priest, rabbi, imam, etc. didn’t tell you. Nice to know Hall is expanding his repertoire. In all of this, I will not be able to fully comment on matters relating to Islam, though I might on some with some positions like Mormonism if I think I know enough about the subject matter. I also think it’s important to do that since I don’t want Hall misrepresenting anyone else’s religion any more than I want him misrepresenting mine.

Rather than go through the list of teachers each time, I will simply say a holy man. Hall says there are specific parts they avoid in teaching. First, I don’t doubt this on many points since many of our ministers are really quite shallow and have no wish to educate themselves. Second and more relevant here, there is nothing in the book of mine he can show me to surprise me since I’ve read the whole thing many times.

Hall also says there is no such thing as too much information. True enough, but there is the problem of false information. Hall does not have good information in this. He takes run of the mill atheist tropes and runs with them. Hall’s problem is too little information and too little if any interaction with scholarly sources.

He also says something about cognitive dissonance. This is a favorite atheist trope. It’s like it’s the only psychological condition they know. Of course, Hall has likely never read When Prophecy Fails on the matter, but hey, who needs to? I wonder if it’s cognitive dissonance that keeps him from responding to my reviews.

Hall also says to not take his word for anything. Look it up. I would believe that except as I have said, Hall has refused to respond to my review of his first book and still keeps going. Odd for someone who wants to be checked on and says there’s no such thing as too much information.

Hall also says many Christians try to wiggle out of the Old Testament saying the laws are no longer in effect. He is convinced they are. Is there any wrestling with Pauline teaching on the matter whatsoever? Nope. He has several verses for us, so let’s see.

“Keep his commandments for a thousand generations.”[ 1] – “Keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, always.”[ 2] – “Remember and obey the laws of Moses.”[ 3] – “Every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.”[ 4] – “It is easier for Heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”[ 5] – “One came and said unto him, Jesus, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”[ 6]

Chase, Stephany. Pulling Back The Green Curtain: 666 Things Your Religious Leaders Never Taught You (pp. 4-5). UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition.

The first one is from Deuteronomy 7. This is a hyperbolic statement about the keeping of the commandments. It is also given to the people who had that covenant made with them. Gentiles are not those people. The second is in Deuteronomy 11 and is much the same. Malachi 4 is the third saying to remember the Law of Moses. Yep. That settles it I guess.

The fourth is from Psalm 119 and says God’s commands are true and endure forever. Note the Hebrew word for forever can refer to forever. It can refer to things lasting forever or a long time or even to something such as great men of old.

The fifth is from Luke 16 saying not one jot or tittle of the law will disappear. Correct. We also say that Jesus fulfilled the law for us. Again, Hall does not interact with any Christian interpretation of the passage.

The sixth Hall says is Luke 19:16, but it isn’t. It isn’t 20:16 or 21:16 or 18:16 either. It is the story of the rich young ruler being told to keep the commandments. Of course, he is! He’s still under the old covenant.

So again, Hall comes up amazingly short because he does not have enough information. Strange that a man who says too much information so much ignores information. Why is this?

Finally, at the end of the introduction, he has the logical problem of evil from Epictetus. Apparently, he’s unaware that Plantinga and others have solved the logical problem of evil. Atheistic philosophers don’t use it. That does not mean that the problem of evil itself has been abandoned, but some forms of it have been. Again, Hall just does not have enough information.

So next time we look at this book, we will start looking at the 666 claims. It will take awhile to go through, but what I have read so far is entirely disappointing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheist Incredulity

Are many atheists really people of reason? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Normally if you encounter an atheist, the reigning battle cry is that of evidence. I’m not at all denouncing that request. That’s a fine request to make. What I am skeptical about is the fact that evidence is really wanted.

My problem with this is that there is many times a double-standard. Consider some statements that you can see. Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Peter Boghossian and said he had become convinced that most anything that could be seen as done by God could also be done by aliens so when asked what would convince him God exists, the answer is now nothing.

Boghossian doesn’t fare much better. In his book A Manual for Creating Atheists, he says that if he went outside and all the stars at night spelled out “I am God. Believe in me”, well, that might be suggestive. Of course, we could all be experiencing a mass delusion.

Or consider this golden piece from Jerry Coyne.

“The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119

Note that he says that this is contorted and tentative. This could just begin to suggest something. Note also that these requests are for an experience. That means that you can present all the objective evidence you want and it doesn’t matter. If you talked about your experience, it would be invalid, and yet experience is all that will convince them. Thus, unless you can command God, which you cannot, you will not convince them.

Now let’s see how they handle other situations.

Remember a few years ago when this manuscript was found claiming that Jesus had a wife? Did we know who wrote it? No. Did we know when? What we had was a few centuries after the event. Did we have any context? No. None of this stopped atheists everywhere from proclaiming that a cover-up had taken place and the truth was now out there.

Now go to the Gospels and what do we get? “They’re anonymous!” even though we have better sources on who wrote them than we did on this other finding. They’re decades later, even though that’s not much in the ancient world and it beats centuries later. We also have the entire works themselves. I haven’t even got to the positive evidence for the Gospels. At this point, there’s a double-standard going on.

A few days ago I saw someone share in a group a story that was first published years ago. It was about Joseph Atwill and his book Caesar’s Messiah. For those who don’t know, this is the guy that even Richard Carrier calls a crank with his hypothesis that Christianity was invented by the Romans to control the poor and so Jesus never existed. This atheist who shared it was so happy a Bible scholar was finally showing the truth.

Except that not even atheist Bible scholars took Atwill seriously. These are the same atheists that will commit ritual suicide before they dare read anything by a Christian scholar, but when someone they don’t even know agrees with them, he’s a scholar. For many atheists, it seems like the reasoning goes like this.

Does the claim make Christianity look bad or argue that it is false?
Then the claim is entirely true!
Does the claim defend Christianity or leave it looking good or at least neutral?
Then the claim is entirely false!

No research is needed.

Jesus mythicism is a fine example of this. The people who decry creationists for going against the reigning opinion of biologists and other scientists will happily embrace this fringe movement and base all their hope on Richard Carrier. If anything, when I see atheists argue like this, it really convinces me they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Memes are one of the biggest culprits in this area. Atheists will often post memes meant to be one-liners or something close to show Christianity is nonsense. Normally, these are laden with hideously bad argumentation and a lack of understanding of the claims of Christianity. Memes can be fine illustrations if you have been establishing a point, but please don’t make them the centerpiece of your argument.

Please note I am not saying we Christians can never be just as bad on our own end. What I am claiming is that the party of evidence drops the idea of evidence when it suits them. I know a number of atheists that are not like this, but there are too many that are and if atheists want to be taken seriously, they should try to silence those that are like this. I think of Tim O’Neill who runs the website, History for Atheists, who is doing great work in this regard as an atheist.

And also, I don’t really try to persuade these people that Christianity is true. They’re not really listening. My debate is for the audience who is watching.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheists Who Don’t Care About Arguments

What does it take to convince an atheist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend of mine on Facebook started a thread asking for a quote by someone indicating they need an experience to believe God exists. This is not knocking experience. It happens many times that experiences that are a divine encounter change someone’s mind. My problem is with saying that has to be the requirement.

Also, not all atheists are like this. Some of them are people who have reasonable discussions and look at the evidence. However, if you are an atheist who says you will only change your mind if you have an experience, then you are not a reasonable person. You’re just not.

After all, if you engage in a debate with me with that kind of attitude about the existence of God, what you are telling me right at the start is that your mind is not open to being wrong. If evidence cannot convince you that you are wrong, it is not evidence that your position is based on.

You also should not deny any Christian who is a Christian based on their experience. If an experience is a valid argument for you, it is a valid one for them. You can question the experience happened or their interpretation, but you should be consistent and let it be a valid basis for them.

So what kind of statements do I have in mind?

How about a start with Jerry Coyne and keep in mind, he says this evidence is tentative. One wonders what conclusive evidence would look like.

“The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119

Or Peter Boghossian. In his Manual For Creating Atheists he says that if all the world went outside at night and saw all the stars in the sky spell out something like “I am YHWH. Believe in me,” that could be suggestive. He doesn’t rule out that we could all be experiencing a mass delusion.

Bill Maher is reported to have said that if he thought he heard God speak to him, he would check himself into a mental institution and so should you. If this is accurate, then we have someone who argues that God does not exist. When he has an experience that could be evidence, he denies it.

Richard Dawkins in this video starting around 12:30 is asked what would it take to convince him God exists. In the end, he says nothing. There is always some other explanation and he admits this goes against the grain because he has always paid lip service to the idea of following the evidence where it leads.

Note that it’s lip service.

Now Christians can be sadly just as resistant to evidence, but it’s often atheists that are priding themselves as being people of reason. The problem with this is that if reason does not change your mind, your mind is not based on reason. Again, this doesn’t apply to all atheists, but if this is you, you’re not a genuine debater or reasoner. You are debating with a Christian wanting them to change their mind based on your arguments, all the while saying you will not change your mind based on their arguments.

This is just a small sample of quotes. I have no doubt that if I wanted to do a more in-depth project of this, I could find many more quotes. If you have some, feel free to share them with me.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Party of Reason

Does any side own reason? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was listening to Unbelievable? and one of the guests was from a British Humanist Association. I noticed how it was said by the guest something alone the lines of the belief in reason and that they are advocates for reason. Every time I hear something like this, I always get amazed that so many atheists and such out there want to advocate reason as if it was some new discovery that they made and the rest of the world doesn’t know about it.

Part of that has been that in our day and age, many atheists, especially on the internet, like to claim that they are the people of reason. This is usually in contrast to the theists who are the people of faith. Naturally, this is not an accurate understanding of faith, but a faith that is looked at as blind belief. If any internet atheist wants to think that this is what Christians have always believed, I just urge them to go and read the most educated Christians of today and the past.

This doesn’t mean that you will agree with the conclusion that the Christian makes. It would be great if you would, but I doubt it will happen immediately, but at least see that the people are using reason. They are presenting arguments and giving evidence and asking you to follow that evidence. You can disagree, but it is still the position of using reason.

Is this to say that all Christians are like this? Of course, but this would be like saying that all atheistic philosophers are like the ones that you encounter on the internet. There are too many Christians that are very anti-reason and do say there’s no evidence and you just have to have faith. There are too many atheists as well who claim reason but will believe many of the most unreasonable positions because they argue against Christianity, such as the nonsense idea that Jesus never even existed.

The problem also is that if one thinks they have reason and the other side doesn’t, then anything the other side says is discounted automatically. When I was engaged to Allie, a friend and I went to an event in Charlotte where Gary Habermas was speaking and in the Q&A an atheist tried to stump him at the microphone. Gary answered all of the questions and as the questioner was walking to his seat, my friend tells me he said, “At least I have logic on my side.”

Say all you want about logic, but there is nothing in logic that says God does not exist or that miracles cannot occur. No law of logic excludes those. Unfortunately, someone like this will just think that they are ipso facto a man of reason and they automatically are because, well, they’re an atheist and they’re the party of reason and so anything the opponent says must be false. Obviously, they’re a person of faith and they’re using reason after the fact. Even if that were so, that in itself does not discount the arguments.

Reason is a great tool and everyone should use it more and more and there are people who are people of faith on both sides. When I meet an atheist who makes a statement about how much they are the people of reason, I find it hard to take seriously. If you use reason, I certainly applaud you, but you are not different from the other people who are serious debaters in this field. In fact, the constant misunderstanding of faith from a Christian perspective means I just don’t take you seriously at all.

Reason is great, but it has been used by Christians for ages. It’s nothing new. Today too many atheists act like teenagers who have been given keys to the car and think that no one else has discovered driving. Sorry, but you’re not the only ones on this highway.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Shermer’s Greatest Hits

What did I think of what Michael Shermer said at his debate with David Wood? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I attended the David Wood vs Michael Shermer debate. To be fair, I did not find David Wood’s argument the most convincing. I really don’t find arguments from science too convincing. I understand why they’re made, but I just don’t think they work as well. Still, I think he did a lot better than Shermer did. Shermer tended to come out with a shotgun approach and hoped that something hit.

Shermer also confirmed something to me. Here we have someone with a Ph.D. and the arguments he has are all arguments that you can find on atheist memes anywhere. The new atheists have indeed dumbed down atheism. We can hope that this keeps up.

By the way, I also find it interesting that Shermer starts off with his personal testimony of how he used to be a Christian. It’s like these guys never move out of their fundamentalist days. They still always go with personal testimony.

So let’s look at some of the claims Shermer made as I was making a list on my Kindle at the time.

We have the usual idea on the meaning of atheism. Atheism is said to be a lack of belief. I don’t plan to spend so much time on this except to say what good is it to on a most fundamental question say something that doesn’t tell you anything about reality outside of your own head?

Just to be sure, I’m not the only one saying atheism is not just a lack of belief.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Next Shermer told us that we can’t prove a negative. I find this an odd claim to make. Is this statement proven? If so, then it is a negative proof that you can’t prove a negative. It contradicts itself. Is it unproven? Then perhaps you can prove a negative. Besides, we can prove negatives. There are no 100 pound elephants in my office. I just looked. They’re not here. Negative proven.

Shermer says that there are 1,000 different religions. Why should ours be the right one. Good question. There are also 1,000 different worldviews. Why should atheism be the right one? How would we decide? We could just look at the evidence. Could it be those religions often died out due to a lack of evidence? (Or we could say that Christianity brought that about ultimately by establishing monotheism.)

We have the whole idea of “You’re all atheists with regard to many deities. I just go one god further.” Sure. A lawyer in a court could say “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You all believe everyone else in this room is innocent of the murder of Smith. Why not just look at my client and go one person further?” Again, it comes down to the evidence.

Wood’s argument was that science rose in a Christian culture. Shermer says that this is just because everyone in that culture was a Christian. This leaves the question though of why didn’t it happen elsewhere like it did here? Why not in South America or Australia or the East?

Shermer also said that the theists are the ones who have the burden of proof. Not necessarily. Anyone making any sort of claim has a burden of proof. If Shermer says he’s an atheist, it’s up to him to tell us why he finds other claims unconvincing. Suppose we couldn’t make a strong argument for theism. This would not be an argument for atheism in itself. If atheism is making a claim, and it is, that claim has to be defended. Hence, my position is whoever makes a claim has a burden to back that claim.

Shermer also said we have a God of the Gaps claim going on. I find this odd since Christians were the ones who started the scientific revolution that sought to fill in the gaps. If Christians were enforcing this kind of argument, why would they have bothered doing science to begin with? It’s also worth noting that you can have an atheism of the gaps just as much. I have a huge problem with God of the gaps anyway and when people say “If evolution is true, does that put God out of a job?” I always say that if God is just a stopgap you have for your worldview when things don’t fit, you have a low view of God.

Shermer also said a being like God can’t be simple. A lot of people misunderstand this and think that it means God is easy to understand. Not at all. When we say He’s simple, we mean that He has no parts. In classical Thomistic metaphysics, God is a being where what He is does not differ from that He is. Essence and existence are the same. In angels, essence and existence are separate. In humans, this is even more so especially since we are composed of matter as well.

This leads to “Who created God?” which assumes God is created. Shermer asks why the universe can’t be the uncreated. The classical theologian like myself answers because the universe is composed of essence and existence and matter. It doesn’t have within itself the principle of its own existing.

I don’t really want to spend time on the problem of evil. There are more than enough great resources in dealing with this. I instead recommend listening to my interviews with Clay Jones, Greg Ganssle, and David Wood himself.

Shermer also has the usual bad understanding of the Trinity. God sends Himself to sacrifice Himself to Himself. Shermer can say Christianity is ridiculous all He wants to, but at least try to understand it. These straw men might win over people who don’t understand the issues, but those who do just roll their eyes at it.

Shermer also said there is no physics for any religious system particular to it. Of course not. This is part of general revelation. No one ever said otherwise. It’s just that Christians were the ones who took the most steps finding this out.

Shermer also said that if you were born in a different place, you’d be a different religion. Sure. And if you were born in a different place, you might not believe in what is said to be modern science. If you were born an eskimo in Alaska, you might think whale blubber was the healthiest food to eat. So what?

Shermer also did say we have no explanation for why the laws of nature are the way they are. Of course, this assumes that there are laws of nature. I’m honestly not sold on this point yet. Of course, I would want to know in an atheistic universe, why should we expect any sort of uniformity? (This is getting to the fifth way of Aquinas.)

Shermer also wants us to have empirical evidence for God. I fear by this he means scientific. If so, then this is a category fallacy. If not, then I say I begin by sense experience like all good empiricists do and the five ways of Aquinas work just fine.

Shermer also said we should be able to measure a miracle and see how God did X when He does a miracle. Why should we? Right now, My brain is telling my fingers what to type and somehow I am willing this and I have no idea how I am doing it. Why should I know how God does something?

And of course, why doesn’t God heal amputees? We wait to see how it is that Shermer has exhaustive knowledge of all events around the world today and in the past to know that this has never happened. If he saw a claim, we can be sure he’d say it’s a false report or a fake or something like that. He’s already said in the talk that magicians can do great things (Though illusions) and quite likely aliens could too. We would also like to see Shermer handle the material put forward by Keener.

Shermer went on to say about what it means to be made in God’s image. I would disagree that it means that we are rational, though that is part of it. It means that we bear the authority to represent God and rule over His creation. We need to be rational for that, but that does not sum up what it means to be in His image.

He also says that God is jealous. That doesn’t sound like a good trait. Perhaps not to Shermer, but in the ancient world it was. Jealousy was realizing one had exclusive rights to that which they were owed those rights. As a husband, I have exclusive rights to my wife’s body. No one else has that and I am jealous for that privilege. In the same way, God has a people and their loyalty is to be to no one else. He is jealous for that privilege.

When Shermer started talking about morality, he said “Ask a woman who’s been violated. They don’t like it.” Of course they don’t, but does that mean it’s wrong. Ask a child who doesn’t get ice cream and/or pizza for every meal. They don’t like it. Ask a person who gets laid off from work. They don’t like it. Ask a guy who gets dumped by a girl. They don’t like it. So what?

He also said that if you left tonight an atheist when you had come in a theist, would you cheat on your wife or something like that? Well why not? If morality is all just a social contract and I can get away with it and get in some extra jollies, why wouldn’t I? Why do I not do that? Because I’m convinced good and evil are realities and I ought to be good even when I don’t want to be at times.

And of course, no presentation would be complete without talking about slavery. Unfortunately, the question is much more complicated than Shermer wants it to be. We could just say we would like Shermer to go back to the ancient world and point out where all these other jobs were at that people could use to support their families instead of working for another. Was there a local Wal-Mart or 7-11 around and we all missed it?

Shermer also said we should step outside of our Christian bubbles and see other cultures and other ideas. I have done that. I’m still a devout Christian. Perhaps Shermer should step out of his fundamentalist bubble and read the best scholarship out there disagreeing with him.

I really hope that in the future atheists will get far better arguments. No doubt, Shermer is educated, but it looks like he hasn’t really studied the other side all that well. He still has the fundamentalist understanding that he abandoned years ago.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 6/18/2016: Paul Vitz

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Father’s Day is almost here, a time for us to stop and think about how important all of our fathers really are to us. Many people have good relationships with their fathers and the day is a special day. Many have poor relationships or maybe through an untimely death do not have a possibility of a relationship with their fathers. We all know of impacts that this can have on a child, but what if you were told that the possibility of a child being a theist or an atheist could be influenced by their relationship with their Dad?

Well it’s not just me saying it. It’s Paul Vitz saying it. He’s the author of Faith of the Fatherless and he will be on my show this Saturday. Who is he?

Paul summer 2011 at St. Patrick's Retreat House

Paul C. Vitz, Ph.D.

Senior Scholar and Professor, Institute for the Psychological Sciences, Arlington, Virginia; Professor Emeritus, New York University

(Ph.D., Stanford University)

 

Dr. Vitz’s teaching and research is focused on the integration of

Christian theology, especially Catholic anthropology, with psychology. This requires breaking from the modern secularism and post-modern relativism prevalent today. He is presently also addressing the following special topics: the psychology of hatred and forgiveness, the psychological importance of fathers and the relevance of psychology for understanding atheism and the psychology of the virtues.

Dr. Vitz’s books include: Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship, 2nd ed; Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious; Modern Art and Modern Science: The Parallel Analysis of Vision; Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (which came out in a revised edition in fall 2013 from Ignatius Press); and The Self: Beyond the Post-modern Crisis. He is also Professor of Psychology Emeritus at New York University where he taught for many years prior to joining IPS.

He is married to Evelyn Birge Vitz, best known as Timmie, who is a Professor of French at NYU; they recently moved down to Arlington, VA after living 44 years in downtown Manhattan. Dr. Vitz commuted to Arlington for over 10 years but now walks to work; Timmie is still a Professor at NYU so she commutes up to NY City. It is her turn now! They have six grown children and 18 grandchildren.

It’s important to note that Vitz’s claim is not that a good father necessitates having a child grow up a theist and a bad or absent father does not necessitate that a child grow up an atheist, but there is an interesting connection. As we think about Dads this week, we’ll talk about how that relationship can influence a child. We’ll discuss why it is that there seems to be this connection between the two and what Christian parents need to know about the importance of a father and what we can consider in our own interaction with atheists that we meet.

I hope you’ll be tuning in this Saturday to the Deeper Waters Podcast to hear this important discussion on Dads. Please also consider going to ITunes and leaving a positive review!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/30/2016: Luke Cawley

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Evangelism is sometimes said to be a lost art among evangelicals. We live in a world where we don’t really interact as much with people and make evangelism the focus. The early Christian church spread in an empire where there was no internet, few people writing apologetics works, and great persecution. We have so much more than they and we do so much less than they did. What can we do to improve our track record? How can we better reach those around us?

In order to discuss that, I have decided to bring onto the show Luke Cawley. Who is he?

me on stage

According to his bio:

I am a writer, speaker, trainer and the director of Chrysolis, an organization I helped start in 2012 with the aim of enabling others to better communicate the Jesus story.

Much of my time is spent in contexts where God is not typically discussed in depth. I love interacting with skeptical audiences in universities, schools, bars, cafes and theaters, and anywhere else I’m invited.

I also enjoy enabling individuals and Christian communities to better engage those around them with the story of Jesus.

I have spent most of my adult life founding and developing (missional) Christian communities on university campuses in Britain and Romania and am a regular speaker at conferences and outreach events in different countries.

I was previously part of the writing team at InterVarsity Evangelism and a columnist at the Church of England Newspaper. My first book, The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians and the Spiritual but not Religious, was published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.

I have an MA in Evangelism & Leadership from Wheaton College and a Certificate in Theological and Pastoral Studies (concentrated in Christian Apologetics) from Oxford University. I’m married to Whitney, a lovely South Carolinian school teacher, and we have three young children.

Luke is the author of The Myth of the Non-ChristianThis book is not about some kind of idea of universalism. No. It’s a book about how to do evangelism and reach three different types of people. Those people are the ones who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, atheists and agnostics, and then nominal Christians.
Cawley’s book is one that certainly got me thinking about evangelism and does so still to this day and with my wife and I having a new church here in the area we’re attending, I’m thinking of implementing some ideas if given the chance. Cawley’s book does have apologetics in it, but those are more resources in the back. Instead, consider it a book to be more like Greg Koukl’s Tactics in that Cawley teaches you more how to do apologetics and it depends on the person that you meet.
We’ll be discussing these kinds of matters. Why is it that some evangelistic encounters can fall so incredibly short? Is there a proper time to answer someone’s questions and a proper time to just cut through the questions? How does apologetics play a role in the process of evangelism? What do you do when you encounter people who say they are Christians but who do not really live lives that seem to match Christianity and you fear that they could be Christians in name only?
I hope you’ll be joining me this Saturday for the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also leave a positive review on ITunes.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Myth of the Non-Christian

What do I think of Luke Cawley’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was recommended by a friend that I should get this book and review it and have the author on my show. Since then, I have got and read the book, I am reviewing it and yes, he will be on the Deeper Waters Podcast. I found the book to be an interesting look at how to do evangelism.

Cawley deals with three types of people in the book mainly. The first group is the one that identifies as Spiritual But Not Religious and frankly, there hasn’t been a lot of material I’ve seen in most apologetics books dealing with this group. The next is that of atheists that you encounter. Finally, he goes with people that we know are nominal Christians.

Cawley’s main idea is to do a lot of relational apologetics and draws you into the story of the people that you’re interacting with. He points out rightly that sometimes, it does take more than just correct answers. Sometimes bridges need to be built to help people relate.

I also think some of these ideas were just excellent. I’m intrigued by the idea of starting up what he called an Agnostics Anonymous where you have people meet together somewhere and just discuss the questions that they have about Christianity. Perhaps when we get some more funding in, I’ll start doing that so we can order pizza for everyone or something. It did sink in for me the importance of having a safe place where people can discuss the issues. Unfortunately for many, that will not be a church because sadly, the church has often closed the door to questioners.

If you come to this book wanting apologetics arguments, you really won’t find a lot of them. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about learning how to connect with the people that you’re interacting with on a regular basis. It did leave me with a reminder of the importance of evangelism, something that can ironically get lost in the apologetics world.

If there were some matters I’d change, I wish more had been said for some who are struggling on the section about nominal Christians. There are a lot of Christians I meet who are doubting their salvation and when I ask them, I find they don’t really have much reason to do so. They’re emotional doubters and some could read sections like the one on nominal Christians and worry that they themselves are the nominal Christians.

I also frankly do not understand the title still and I wish that that had been explained. You could say that authors regularly don’t get to choose the titles of their books, but Cawley does refer to it from time to time. I do not think he is advocating a position of universalism, but I was still unclear at the end what exactly was being advocated. I wish that this had been spelled out more.

Still, this is a book that I think will be helpful for those wanting to learn not apologetics but a method of how to do apologetics. I recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters